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Gathering Intel on your Pickleball Opponents

Murmurs from the Losers' Bracket Frank Cerabino 02-28-2024

We here at Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket have been wondering if we’d have better success on the court if we kept a secret book of pickleball intel on our opponents.

Yes, it’s just rec level pickleball, but a win is a win. And frankly, wins tend to be in short supply. 

Plus, I’ve read that pickleball’s professional brothers, Ben and Colin Johns, keep a secret book of intel on their opponents. And look at all the success they’ve had.

So, if it’s good enough for the Johns brothers, it’s good enough for me.

As I begin to gather info on the playing styles, proclivities, strengths and weaknesses of the people I routinely play pickleball with, a few questions immediately come to mind.

Should I rent a drone for my research? 

Too creepy? 

OK, how about this: Would it be too much to go to a store that specializes in hunting equipment to build myself the equivalent of a tree stand used by deer hunters? 

Creepier still. How about investing in a private eye to track my opponents when they’re not playing pickleball to see which ones of them might succumb to a free-donuts trap I set before we play?

Even creepier? OK, that’s all second-level intel gathering. 

At first, maybe I should just keep it simple. Do my own binocular-assisted observations of their playing styles and proclivities and start compiling basic pickleball-related data on my usual opponents.

This is bound to be a revelation to me. 

That’s because I tend to be so non-observant of my fellow pickleballers that frequently I have played multiple games against other players before realizing that they are left-handed. 

And to make matters worse, I am a leftie too. 

I’m also sub-par with retention of data. There’s one woman in my playing circle that I only identify by her orange court shoes. If she showed up at the courts with another color of shoes, I’d probably walk by without saying, “Hello.” That’s how numb I am.

But no more. Not with my new intel cheat sheet. And yes, I’m going to do you a solid by sharing it with you.

So, here’s the “Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket Pickleball Opponent Intel Worksheet” I’ve developed to help me start winning more games. 

Feel free to use it to get started on creating an intel database of information on your pickleball opponents.

Opponent’s name / nickname  _________

(example: Johnny “The Grandma Crusher” Smith)

Opponent’s pronouns 

(for mixed doubles play purposes only) 

(a) He/him

(b) She/her

(c) They/them

(d) Flexible  

Opponent’s paddle hand:

(a) Left

(b) Right

(c) Switches to avoid backhand

(d) Switches to show off

Opponent’s paddle

(a) Amazon entry level

(b) Expensive name brand

(c) The illegal one with all the holes on its face

(d) Multiple, possibly merchandise addicted

Knowledge of the game

(a) Refers to paddle as “racket.”

(b) Calls for “do overs” rather than learning the rules

(c) Knows the difference between the APP and the PPA

(d) Offers unsolicited rule explanations to players on other courts


(a) Easy, erratic

(b) Solid, nothing fancy

(c) Great, too fast to see

(d) IIlegal, but can’t be shamed to stop

Return of serve

(a) Frequently out

(b) Sometimes out

(c) Usually deep

(d) Hopefully not to you

Third shot drops

(a) Never tries

(b) Should never try

(c) Should teach you

Proficiency of overhead smashes?

(a) Most hit the back fence

(b) Most hit the net

(c) Most hit the neck


(a) Uses two hands

(b) Should use two hands

(c) Shrieks when forced to use it

(d) Good at it 

Honesty with line calls

(a) Tends to make fair calls

(b) Tends to cheat

(c) Tends to make fair calls until score gets to 7


(a) Can’t sustain beyond two or three hits

(b) Patient, waits for opponent to make mistake

(c) Appears to be patient, then does crafty lob or speedup

(d) Only dinks in warm-up before first game


(a) Claims there’s a “your side and my side” of court

(b) Starts poaching teammate when team falls behind

(c) Left marks on teammates’ arms from poached slams

Score keeping

(a) Routinely forgets who is serving and correct score

(b) Swears to know correct score, but is usually wrong

(c) Always gives themselves an extra point

(d) Never calls the score before they serve


(a) Doesn’t know how to do it

(b) Doesn’t know how to do it, but does it anyway

(c) Please stop


(a) Doesn’t gloat on wins, or sulk after losses

(b) Gracious post-game paddle tapper

(c) Quietly blames partner after loss

(d) Says “good game” after pickling you


Read past editions of Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket, including:

Frank Cerabino is a long-time columnist for the Palm Beach Post in Florida, a pickleball addict like the rest of us, and a newly published author. Check out Frank’s newly released book, I Dink, Therefore I Am: Coming to Grips with My Pickleball Addiction (available on Amazon and a great read (or gift!) for any pickleball player), for pickleball tips and laughs!

I Dink, Therefore I Am | Frank Cerabino


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